Perform Your Own Home Property Survey

Perform your own home property survey: finding property markers saves you time, expense and trouble, including how to read a property description, preparing for the search, and surveying fieldwork.

| September/October 1986

MOTHER's HANDBOOK: Finding property markers saves your time, expense and trouble when you perform your own home property survey. 

Perform Your Own Home Property Survey

Because I live in the country and have done some surveying, I am often being asked about property boundaries. The questions are varied: "How much does a surveyor cost?" "Can I do it myself?" "What equipment do I need?" "What do my property corners look like?" "What are the laws concerning surveying and property boundaries?" "Where are my property records?" People ask these questions, not from a desire to fence and post their land, but because of pride of ownership, the desire for knowledge, or — sometimes — to protect themselves from the threat of encroachment.

Take my friend up the road. For years, he had lived peacefully on his 20-acre farm. Then a smooth operator bought the property next door, and subdivision plans began looming on his boundaries. My friend ended up paying a surveyor $1,500 — just to ensure that the new neighbor's ambitions wouldn't include any of his farm.

A thin line separates the smooth operators of this world from those of you who prefer to live and let live — the boundary line of your property. Your right to build or farm, your right to live on land the way you see fit, even your family dog's right to roam at will — all stop at that line. This article will tell you everything you need to know to find it, on the ground . If the thought of doing your own home property survey scares you, don't worry. You don't have to be a genius to find your property boundaries — just a detective.

Knowing how to find your own property markers can save you time, expense, and trouble. But be aware that there's a big difference between finding established lines and setting new ones (or adjusting incorrect old ones). Only a licensed surveyor is legally qualified to set or move lines.

How to Read a Property Description

You've heard it said that the job isn't over till the paperwork is done? In this job, the paperwork comes first. Don't set foot outside until you have in hand every document that could help. First on the list is the portion of your property deed called the legal description : the description in words of your property lines. And before you can understand how to decode that description, you must learn which of the two common surveying methods applies to your property. One is the metes and bounds method; the other is the public land survey system.

3/4/2018 10:47:45 PM

I live on an old 1896 land grant that became an inholding in 1962 when the USFS initially took my easement road to my property. The USFS has repeatedly surveyed (3 times in the last 20 years) moved my boundaries and taken my land. The deed stipulates that I own the property on the waters of two creeks. The old hand written deeds indicate the boundaries run along ridges. I can't afford a new survey and would like to know if I could do this myself if not get a rough estimate of the extent of my property.

8/11/2016 10:13:54 PM

I've got big problems! I own 20 ac in the boonies, a guy is buying the land across the street under land contract. He came over onto my side of the street, tore down my no trespassing signs, and hired a surveyor to do a survey using boundaries he requested, taking a big chunk of my land. His land contract wasn't even listed as a information source on the survey. His contract states "the existing road" he claimed so many feet down the road, then a line due S, the surveyor drew a line that way and listed it as an old road, there is an old overgrown trail near there that met the road 10-15 yards E of where he marked it. My land is in 2 deeds, 1 describes the line as "the existing road", and other says "Remington ln the existing road". To make things worse, I called the survey licencing board, and talked to their investigator, who said he's known that surveyor for over 30 yrs, and he's a honest guy, talk to him. I understand the guy lied to that surveyor, and put the surveyor bind. I've called the local surveyors, and get "no problem, your line it that road", then they find that survey talk to the surveyor then they can't help me, and won't do a survey, "good ole boys network won't get him in trouble". I know all the corners, and have a copy of the county plat showing the correct boundaries, but have this idiot claiming my land. Any advice? Thank you Steve

3/26/2016 2:16:41 PM

I have a brother with some land in the Mojave Dessert. His 10 acre plot is out among a checkerboard of BLM and private square miles. He has been having great difficulty locating this land as maps are giving a rough idea, but apparently there was some miscalculation in the original mapping and meridian systems. He is quite frustrated in having been sold this land without any marker or any help from those he has tried to get information from. Any ideas on how he can avoid paying the $5000 asking price on having his plot boundaries discovered? None of the nearby plots appear to have been surveyed.

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